October 8, 2011
Just Read || Purple Hibiscus
'Purple Hibiscus' is one of the most touching African novels I've read. Although The Heart of Redness and Johnny Mad Dog have inscribed their stories onto my mind and heart, this novel has reached to my soul.
Chimamanda's writing is rich and fluent, and it is the combination of characters and story that has affected me so deeply. Her descriptions are so true and realistic that I can smell the rain in Kambili's bath water in Nsukka; feel her terror of her father; see the play of shadows thrown around by the kerosene lamp on her grandfather Papa-Nnukwa's body on the verandah as he prays early in the morning.
Another reason I sincerely appreciate this book is for its representation of the difference between faith and religion: Kambili and her family practice religion in their measured actions, their oppressive silences, their tightly-managed lives. Though her father is a rich man and attempts to prove his love for God by giving back to the community, his treatment of his family shows that he has failed to reach that level of spirituality that the truly faithful emit.
Other characters, such as Papa-Nnukwa and Father Amadi, represent faith because, in my opinion, faith is about having hope and believing with love instead of believing with terror. The family's trip to Aokpe to see the vision of the Blessed Virgin presents a beautiful scene, and, whatever was happening, it was hope and belief and faith that made it magical.
This is what I believe makes Purple Hibiscus magical: the sense of hope that remains when you finally - sadly - close the pages of the book, and the smile that turns up the corners of your mouth as you feel true faith envelop you.